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In 2020, the over-representation of Indigenous people in federal custody reached an all-time high, which means that Gladue report writers are needed more than ever to play an important role in reconciliation.
The first of its kind in Canada, Vancouver Community College’s (VCC) Gladue report writing program was developed in collaboration with IndiGenius & Associates, a consulting firm dedicated to eliminating the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Its founder, Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow, is a proud Ojibway and member of Whitefish River First Nation located on Manitoulin Island in Ontario.
Mark, who also teaches in the program, has a wide range of experience with Indigenous justice, including researching community needs within the justice system, developing and monitoring restorative justice programs, and participating in peacemaking and sentencing circles. Mark is also an Indian Residential School Crisis Line counsellor, and has over 17 years of experience as case manager with youth and adult offenders.
Mark has held several positions within Indigenous organizations, helping to develop and oversee First Nations justice programs. In addition to providing Gladue training and Gladue report writing services, Mark has worked consistently to ensure the courts and Indigenous people have a better understanding of the options for bail, incarceration, diversion, or reintegration back into the community.
Mark’s mission to improve the lives of Indigenous people also extends to his other initiative, Birch Bark Coffee Co., which donates a portion of proceeds towards clean water solutions for Canadian Indigenous communities.
In 1996, Canada’s Criminal Code was first amended to require judges to consider alternative sentencing to reduce the number of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons. In 1999, a case involving a 19-year-old Cree woman named Jamie Tanis Gladue established “Gladue” rights, requiring judges to recognize the historical trauma that continues to affect Indigenous offenders in Canada.
Gladue report writing is playing an important role in reconciliation. A Gladue report is a written document which tells a person’s “sacred story”, and identifies and suggests options to consider during sentencing such as addiction treatments, restorative justice, or other paths to address past trauma. It also aims to incorporate community members and the victim in determining a fit sentence, when possible.
Play a role in reconciliation. Register now for VCC’s unique, part-time Gladue report writing program starting in September 2021.